Old and new: The Canon PowerShot G3 and the PowerShot G1 X Mark II.

This article was originally published in 2017 as part of our 'Throwback Thursday' series.

It's hard to believe that the Canon G-series is almost 17 years old, and while technology has certainly marched forward, 'G cameras' have consistently been a favorite of enthusiasts and even pros. (OK, there was that whole kerfuffle when the G7 dropped Raw support, but Canon saw the error of its ways and corrected course with the G9.)

However, through all the years, there's one model in particular that always stands out in my memory: the PowerShot G3. In part, this is surely due to the fact that it's one of the cameras that helped me make the transition to digital, but I don't think I'm alone in this. The G3 was released right around the time that a lot of photographers were making the same transition, and the camera offered a fast lens and all the manual controls you could want. Its 'rangefinder' look undoubtedly appealed to aesthetic tastes as well.

Taking the PowerShot G3 to the summit. North Cascades National Park, Washington.

Photo by Dale Baskin

It's predecessor, the PowerShot G2, was already a popular camera, but the G3 improved on it in a number of important ways.

Most notably, the G3 featured a 35-140mm equivalent F2.0-3.0 lens that maintained a relatively fast aperture throughout the range (which wasn't quite as fast as the G2's 34-102mm F2.0-2.5 lens, but it provided a lot more reach). Although it had a tendency to exhibit some purple fringing in high contrast scenes, it never stuck out as a terrible problem to me. To make good use of the lens, Canon added FlexiZone autofocus and the ability to manually select from over 300 focus areas around the screen

Crossing the Dome Glacier.

Photo by Dale Baskin

It was also one of the first (if not the first) compact camera to get an internal neutral density filter, a feature that continues on G-series cameras – and many other compacts – to this day. It made the camera usable at wide apertures even in bright sunlight, and allowed for long exposures to create motion blur, such as with moving water.

Of course, the thing most people cared about was image quality, and the G3 didn't disappoint. In Phil's original review, he praised the G3, saying 'The Super-Fine JPEG option delivers almost TIFF-like image quality with no JPEG artifacts or loss of detail.'

Lantern light near Juneau, Alaska.

Photo by Dale Baskin

What appealed to me were the G3's Raw files. Although it had the same 4MP resolution as the G2, the G3 could capture 12-bit Raw files, compared to the G2's 10-bit files. Whether this actually made a real world difference in images from those older, smaller sensors, I don't know. But it sounded good. (Fun fact: back when the G3 came out, DPReview even made sure to tell readers how many Raw images would fit on a 1GB Microdrive. The answer is 272, if you're curious.)

One feature that hasn't carried through to modern day 'G cameras' is the optical viewfinder. The G3 had an 'optical tunnel' viewfinder with about 84% coverage, and beginning at moderately wide angles the lens blocked the lower left corner of the image. But it was an actual viewfinder, making it easier to take pictures in bright places, like on top of a glacier. With practice I became very adept at using it.

Sunset descent. Cascade Mountains, Washington.

Photo by Dale Baskin

As I look back at the G3 now, I realize that it was a camera designed to appeal to SLR users who wanted to go digital, but who weren't ready to break the bank on an EOS D60. Other than interchangeable lenses, it had all the features you could want: Raw images, viewfinder, top plate LCD, PASM modes, E-TTL hot shoe, command dial on the grip, manual focus point selection, and even the ability to use filters with a bayonet adapter. And it also looked a little more like a traditional camera than the more curvy G2.

Between its relatively compact size, large feature set, and excellent Raw files, the G3 was a camera I could carry along on adventures, confident that I would be able to get the shots I wanted. And it did just that, accompanying me to the tops of mountains, through national parks, and to a few foreign countries. Just playing around with it while writing this article makes me want to go use it again.

Ah, nostalgia...

Read our Canon PowerShot G3 review

If you have a piece of gear that you'd like to write about, we'd love to hear from you – and you might even get featured on the DPReview homepage. Leave us a short note in the comments and if you have a longer story to tell, send it to us, and we'll take it from there.

Sample Photos